BOOK REVIEW: Myers, Jack, Knight’s Gold: The Largest Documented KGC Treasure Ever Discovered (Jack O’Llantern Press, 2016) pp. iv +498, illustrations, endnotes, no bibliography or index, ISBN 9781539896562, soft cover $18.95
Like a lot of books about the Knights of the Golden Circle (KGC) and the tales about treasure that the KGC supposedly buried to finance a second Civil War, this work contains a lot of speculations, garbles a lot data, and contains a ton of misinformation. The book is tedious to read, everything the author says he repeats at least three times.
A lot of the book deals with two treasure troves found in Baltimore, Maryland. Both of these troves are believed by the author to have been buried in basements by members of the KGC. Little factual data and a lot of questionable information is given to support this theory. We are asked to believe that two teenagers who found the first trove carried five thousand gold coins home in their pockets and shoes! A practice problem from the book, New Practical Arithmetic, published in Boston in 1875 is construed by the author to be a coded message by the agents of the Knights of the Golden Circle in Baltimore concerning the buried treasure.
Another reported treasure trove is located within Victorio Peak in New Mexico. This area is now on the White Sands Test Range. A lot of various stories are related about this reported treasure trove. The odor of fraud permeates almost all of what is reported about this supposed treasure location.
The most bizarre “treasure” parts of the book deal with none other than America’s most famous bandit, Jesse Woodson James.
The James boys did not spend their loot but socked it away to help fund the Knights of the Golden Circle and the second Civil War. No mention is made of all the race horses the James brothers bought, raced and bet on.
Almost all of the off the wall stuff published about Jesse James is trotted out in this book. Orvis Houk, Del Schrader, Ron Pastore, Henry J. Walker and a variety of other questionable James literature is quoted.(Somehow Betty Duke and her claim that her great-grandfather, James L. Courtney, was the real Jesse James got left out. This must have been an oversight.) This specious material is jumbled in with material from well written and well researched books. The author makes no effort to select the wheat from the chaff in any of this.
The James material is all a total tangle of out and out falsehoods, misinformation and speculation. One fiction novel even is cited to support some of this material.
Examples of some of this material are: (1) William Clark Quantrill was head of the KGC’s Knights of the Iron Hand; (2)John Newman Edwards wrote dime novels after the war; (3) After the war Jesse James worked as a bounty hunter and tried to go straight; (4) Gov. Crittenden appointed Sheriff James Timberlake as a deputy U. S. marshal (these are federal appointments); (5) Sheriff Timberlake went to New Mexico after he collected his reward and likely helped stash some of the Victorio Peak treasure; (6) Albert Pike started the KKK: etc. etc. etc. The nonsense boggles the imagination!
Around the historical figure of America’s icon Jesse James congregates a community of con artists, charlatans, liars, claimants, and fraudsters. The entry fee is nominal. All it takes is an intense desire TO BE NOTICED. It is the exit fee that is costly and dear. Once identified among this community, most all never recover integrity.
Fools like these feed off one another voraciously. They can command no significant following. Their only power comes from the power to infect the un-knowledgeable, and to lie.
So it occurred in January of 2015 when the editor Joel Willans of the blog WhizzPast elected to headline an article titled, “25 little-known facts about the outlaw Jesse James,” with a fake photo of the Jesse James gang. Willans is an ex-pat of the UK, and apparently a man without a country.
The article was decent and fairly accurately written account with legitimate photos, almost a rarity these days, written by Kathleen Harris from the staff of WhizzPast. The “25 little-known facts” structure of the article is a favored darling of internet algorithms, intended to attract more clicks than relevant audience.
Editor Willans, I’d estimate, adores algorithms. He could not let the Harris article go unpublished without mucking up the writing integrity of Kathleen Harris with a fake photo of the James gang. Willans proudly explained in Comments to the article, the image was obtained from “an expert.”
The “expert” Willans cited is found on a website that is a well-known seedbed of fraudsters. It is no surprise to find Jesse James con artist Ron Pastore among them. Pastore’s activities are long known to Stray Leaves. Whenever Pastore speaks, the stats for pages on Leaves of Gas that relate to Pastore jump astronomically and the queries roll in. We’ve taken Pastore to the woodshed time and time again for his fraud. Now there’s Joel Willans to join with Pastore.
Gratuitously, Willans invited me to provide him a bone fide image of the James gang. If I could not, he said, he’d would persist in publishing the photo that is fraudulent. This is a typical con man’s gambit. The fact is, no image of the James gang exists. None, whatsoever. The James, as fugitives of the law, were not dumb so to photograph themselves and distribute their images, either as a gang or individually, begging to be captured. Asking to provide something that doesn’t exist is the con man’s way of saying, “Gotcha.” The fact that the faces in the Willans image cannot be authenticates as the identified names attached to them is the James way of saying “Gotcha, con man.”
Mr. Willans believes his college degree in history should stand for something. Indeed, it should, but certainly not for the perpetration of fake history. Modestly, Mr. Willans does not mention, he also has a degree in journalism from the London School of Journalism. His brand of journalism differs little from the tabloid trash Britain wildly generates.
Commentator Willans bows before the Holy Grail of algorithms, amazon(dot)com. After all, Willians is no journalist at all. He’s an adman. He invokes the once beacon of hope turned rampant despoiler to render people disparagingly as does his Grail. Two book reviews of Jesse James Soul Liberty on amazon only can mean a worthless book to him.
Willans appears to have backslid on his journalism degree. He makes no mention of the book’s Milton F. Perry Award, or its nominations for Best Non-Fiction Biography of the Wild West History Association, or Spur Award nomination from The Western Writers of America. He mentions not at all that the Tony Award winning Steppenwolf Theater commissioned award winning playwright Carlos Murillo to write a play based on a James family member featured in the book’s chapter “All for the Underdog.” Nor does Willans acknowledge the book’s popularity among libraries across the nation and book collectors of original new history, not regurgitated. Willans’ idolatry can produce only cynicism, which he believes is amusing.
The “Incorrect Facts” review of Virginia Church, Willans boasts of, has been addressed here before. Never mind the oxymoron title that would cancel out any subsequent content, her complaint is a closed issue until she alone elects to correct whatever she deems untrue. As for amazon, if I was able, I’d delete amazon from my book’s distribution network. Not because of how my book appears there, or amazon’s feeble sales results due to its skewed algorithms, but more for the fact that I disagree with the company’s predatory and exploitative business practices, and its despoliation of the literary market in favor of flooding the market with 99 cents pulp, most all lacking in any literary merit.
WhizzPast is a clever title for a blog. Its subtitle is “The fastest way to travel back in time.” Under the editorial hand of Joel Willans, with his history and journalism degrees, the Jesse James family is ridiculed and disparaged, and Jesse James history is steampunked, all for the sake of Willans’ algorithm success. So much for the value of a college education, and two degrees utterly wasted.
In this tawdry episode, WhizzPast fails in its mission as “The fastest way to travel back in time.” WhizzPast makes the issue entirely present, and not the truest. You see, Joel Willans is no more than an adman…whose art is deception, no different than the con men attracted to Jesse James throughout history, and who are much too prevalent today, preying upon the uneducated, the un-knowledgeable, and the ignorant.
UPDATE: Jan 25, 2015
While Joel Willians plays smackdown with his guest commentators, one commenter slipped in with a fact that once more puts the lie to Willians’ claim that his James gang photo is authentic. Judy posted:
“I don’t see how this could have been a picture of the James Gang. Just a quick google search tells me that according to the Minnesota Historical Society Mueller, the photographer, didn’t start his photo studio in Owatonna until 1884. http://www.mnhs.org/people/photographers/M.php
“I kept looking for more info about Mr. Mueller and found him in the Minnesota 1905 census and he had been a resident for 23 years, making his move to MN 1882.
By 1882-1884 the Youngers were in prison and Jesse was dead.”
Nancy Samuelson, book reviewer for the Wild West History Association, the James-Younger Gang Journal, & Leaves of Gas reviews the latest book to come from the imagination of treasure hunter Ron Pastore
Jesse James’ Secret: Codes, Cover-Ups & Hidden Treasure by Ron Pastore and John O’Melveny Woods, (Intellect Publishing. 2010). 296 pp., soft cover, $19.95.
This is another round of Jesse James did not die in 1882. Like most other books and articles of this ilk this one is loaded with misinformation and fairy tales. There are no notes, no bibliography, or any other pretense of real research. The book is also replete with photographs of very dubious identification and origin.
Jesse James was really Jeremiah (or was it Jere Miah—the authors can’t seem to keep the spelling consistent) James. Jeremiah lived on well after Jesse James was shot and killed by Bob Ford in 1882, raised a large family and died in Kansas.
Even well documented facts concerning the James and Younger families are totally twisted in this book. For instance the father of Robert James (the father of Frank and Jesse) is said to have died on a buffalo hunting trip to Indian Territory. In fact, both of Robert James’ parents, John and his wife Mary (Polly), both died in Logan County, KY in 1827 and there are extensive court records that document this.
The authors claim that the James boys and the Younger boys were cousins and this is not true. The authors also list the following Youngers as members of the James-Younger gang: Bud, Cole, Bob, Jim and Grat. Bud was a nickname for Cole Younger and there was never a Grat Younger. Grat was a Dalton and a member of the Dalton Gang. The Daltons and the Youngers were, however, related.
I could go on for several pages just listing errors of fact in this book but that would do little but document the complete lack of scholarship of the authors.
The entire book is more tall tales of Knights of the Golden Circle, buried treasure, switched identities, etc, etc. Unless you wish to collect all of the weird books in print about Jesse James I would advise you skip this one.
The following review of TV’s Jesse James’ Hidden Treasure appeared in the Winter, 2009-2010 edition of The James-Younger Gang Journal, posted here with permission of the reviewer Nancy B. Samuelson & the Journal. Samuelson is an author, historian, lecturer, and book reviewer for the Wild West History Association.
Jesse James’ Hidden Treasure
This program aired on the History Channel three times during early November 2009. With this program, the History Channel has stooped to a new low. The program featured, so called, historians Ron Pastore and Ralph Ganis.
Pastore heads a team called the National Geomantic Survey, or NGS. I have not been able to locate any such national organization. NGS appears to be a creation of Ron Pastore’s imagination. Further, the term geomantic comes from the word geomancy. This is the practice of divination by means of a figure made by a handful of earth thrown down at random or by figures or lines formed by a number of dots made at random. In other words fortune-telling!
The program moves from this bit of pseudo-science to a lot of mythology about the Knights of the Golden Circle (KGC). We are asked to believe that a lot of carvings in caves in Kansas are really coded messages that will help locate huge treasure hordes hidden by Jesse James as he was working for the KGC. These carvings are said to be cryptic codes, however, most of what is shown is the initials JJ in various forms. Real cryptic—as these are the initials of Jesse James.
Jesse James was supposed to have obtained 1.5 million dollars during his robberies and hidden much of it in Kansas in order to finance a second Civil War that was to be started by the KGC. The total of all the take in the James gang robberies probably does not exceed a quarter of a million dollars and Jesse James is not known to have spent any lengthy amounts of time in Kansas either. Ganis has Jesse involved in the Ku Klux Klan operations in North Carolina as well.
Pastore claims to have located two treasure hoards. These two finds amount to all of about $30-35 in old coins. That is a pretty small amount of money to finance a second Civil War! The coins and one piece of gold were buried in Mason jars. However, the jars shown in the program were not discolored with age, and the zinc lid on one of the jars appeared in near pristine condition. Most of the coins also appeared to be in near pristine condition and the coins are dated in the 1890s. The dates of the coins are passed off as proof that Jesse James was not killed by Bob Ford in 1882.
There is much more that could be said about the nonsense that was passed off as “history” in this program but I think I have given the reader enough information to realize that this program was not “history” in any sense of the word.